UCS Battle With Heartland Has Pfizer in the Middle

Sometimes nice words are just nice words. Pfizer calls itself the “world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company,” and on the green front says it has “long recognized the risks posed by global climate change such as more severe weather events and potential adverse impacts on human health.”

So why does Pfizer, famed manufacturer of Viagra and Zoloft among other modern drugs, support the Heartland Institute—the free-market think tank famous for its infamous billboard campaign comparing people who agree with what scientists say about climate change to the Unabomber? This is the same outfit that The Economist says is “’the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists this month called out Pfizer on this apparent contradiction, saying that the pharmaceutical company should break all ties with Heartland

Perhaps Pfizer, which likes to say it is on a “green journey,” has not quite arrived at the intersection of Science, Intellectual Honesty and Climate Change.

UCS president Kevin Knobloch notes, “Misinformation about climate science is a dangerous thing. Scientists have been telling policymakers for years that climate change poses serious threats to our health and economic well-being. But too many polluting corporations have pursued a strategy of delay and denial to protect their near-term bottom lines rather than the public interest.”

Also insidious is the strategy to influence climate change policy by funding front groups—such as Heartland—that can “fight for the corporation’s preferred policy without having the corporation’s name attached to sometimes underhanded activities,” he continues.

Knobloch said that following the “misleading and reckless rhetoric” of the Heartland Unabomber billboard, 20 corporations that supported Heartland withdrew their funding.”

Pfizer was not one of those companies. It is indeed a curious relationship with Heartland, given the latter’s stance on climate change. When pressed on the contradiction by Forecast the Facts, Pfizer responded that it does not agree with Heartland ‘s position on climate change. It continued: “Pfizer supports groups such as the Heartland Institute in specific health care policy issues (including vaccines and follow on biologics), and is also a member of several industry and trade groups that represent our industry and the business community at large. Our company and its stakeholders derive significant benefits from our involvement with these organizations, which help advance our business objectives related to healthcare policy.”

Pfizer in a November 2011 Climate Change Position Statement, says it is “working together for a healthier world.” It even trademarked that statement.

Is the company double-talking its way past the connection between climate change and health or missing the point entirely?

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

2 responses

  1. The billboard campaign was dumb.  On the other hand, science is about promoting skepticism regarding any hypothesis.  Moses” I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not.”Dr. Peter Medawar

    1. What is your point?

      Of course reasonable skepticism is important to the scientific method. However, there is a huge difference between reasoned skepticism and merchandising doubt for profit (see the doubt campaign around cigarettes’ link to cancer as exhibit A)

      Scientists deal in probabilities with margins of error accounted for.

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